The $100 in compensation the Saskatchewan government is sending to help northern residents who lost food in the two-and-a-half days without power last week is not enough, according to a local mayor.
On Friday, the province said it would offer $100 to each resident in a dozen northern communities as a grant to cover grocery costs if their food spoiled.
“The residents feel let down by the government, with the cost of living $100 is simply a small amount,” said La Loche Mayor Georgina Jolibois.
She said it’s not enough for people like single parents with multiple kids, including covering baby formula.
“The province is definitely competing with Clearwater River Dene Nation, the band gave out … $200 to buy groceries,” Jolibois said.
La Loche, located roughly 430 kilometers northwest of Prince Albert, was previously under an evacuation order but is no longer, though said not many residents of the community have returned home because of how fires are affecting roadways.
WATCH | As wildfires in northwestern Saskatchewan impact roadways, Saskatchewan focuses on getting food and fuel into communities:
As of Sunday at 3 pm, the Highway Hotline showed that Highway 155 — which was temporarily closed because it was surrounded by wildfires — has reopened but with low visibility because of smoke.
Jolibois said because of the highway closure, the stores that were open were without groceries like bread because supply trucks could not get through. She expects the roadway to be intermittently closed at times because of the wildfires.
Jolibois said she spoke with provincial leadership last week, saying they wanted help with food compensation because the residents had to throw out food. Later that week, she was told that the money was on its way.
Funds provided outside of disaster assistance programs
The northern communities — including places like La Loche, Buffalo Narrows, Buffalo River Dene Nation, Dillon and Descharme Lake — were without power from about 3 pm on Sunday until shortly after 1 am on Wednesday, attributed to the wildfire activity plaguing the north.
Community leaders, like Jolibois, will distribute the money to residents in the community after the grant is issued from the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency.
“The long interruption in power caused a lot of food to spoil,” said Christine Tell, Minister of Corrections, Policing and Public Safety.
“These funds will provide relief to residents and communities who do not originally qualify for support through the Provincial Disaster Assistance Program.”
The disaster assistance program allows local authorities to apply for financial assistance for non-insurable costs like replacing damaged infrastructure or pre-emptive measures like fireguards and sprinklers.
The province is asking people who own a cabin or second property outside of the communities, but who are affected by the outage, to call the disaster assistance program at 1-866-632-4033.
Wildfires burn thousands of kilometers of land
Wildfires continue to burn thousands of square kilometers in the north, with three of the wildfires larger than 1,000 square kilometers, the largest being about 4,310 square kilometers as of Sunday morning.
There are 27 active wildfires, seven of which are not contained.
All of central Saskatchewan is under an air quality advisory because of wildfire smoke, with all of the western half of the province also facing advisories.
Highway 165 west of La Ronge is closed due to a wildfire, while others in the most affected regions — from Buffalo Narrows to Beauval — are under a visibility advisory as of Sunday afternoon.